The Senate Republican Rural Caucus announced Tuesday the accomplishments and advances made for Rural Oklahoma this session.
Senator Ron Justice, R-Chickasha, Chairman of the Republican Rural Caucus commended his fellow caucus members for working together to achieve a quality reform policy agenda.
“At the beginning of this legislative session, our Rural Caucus laid out a vision for improving rural Oklahoma and protecting the resources and assets that are vital to the well being of our citizens and our state’s economic development and job growth,” said Justice. “By working together in a tight budget year, we were able to accomplish each one of our agenda items that strengthen rural Oklahoma.”
Along with the many reforms accomplished this session, the Republican Rural Caucus worked to ensure the Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) would be funded. Justice added that funding REAP was vital because the success and livelihood of Rural Oklahoma directly affects our entire state.
The Senate Republican Rural Caucus worked diligently this session to carry out their 2009 policy agenda.
The Rural Caucus sought to increase funding for the improvement of county roads and bridges which was accomplished through stimulus money being directed towards transportation. Many areas of the state will receive road money, strengthening Oklahoma’s public safety. Senate Bill 832 by Senator Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, provides for the repair of obsolete and structurally deficient county bridges. This legislation is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
The Rural Caucus vowed to protect private property rights, and this was completed through legislation by Senator Ron Justice, R-Chickasha and Senator Mike Schulz, R-Altus. House Bill 1482 (Justice) protects farmers and ranchers from nuisance actions if the farm or ranch has been in place for 2 years or more. House Bill 2154 (Schulz) strengthens penalties for trespassing on certain lands and is on the Governor’s desk for his approval.
The Rural Caucus helped make Oklahoma’s trucking permit system more efficient. House Bill 2054 by Senator Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, allows the Department of Public Safety to issue an annual vehicle permit for the movement of oversize and overweight loads that cannot be reasonably dismantled. This legislation allows us to stop clogging the permit office to get loads every single day, making the system more efficient.
The Rural Caucus improved the access to healthcare professionals and facilities by passing House Bill 1127 by President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, which continues the service of the OSU Medical Center in Tulsa. With the continual shortage of doctors and other medical professionals in Oklahoma, this legislation assures health care access for rural Oklahomans statewide. Additionally, Tort Reform legislation in House Bill 1603 by Pro Tem Coffee was passed that will also improve health care access, as well as attract doctors to our state and assure small business’ health and viability in the state.
The Rural Caucus worked to enhance access to ambulance and fire services in rural Oklahoma. Senate Bill 1166 by Senator Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, will stabilize and even enhance Oklahoma’s 911 system. Senate Bill 1166 has now been sent to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.
The Rural Caucus succeeded in reauthorizing the previous bond funding for the conservation structures, with the bonds set to be sold in June. The Conservation Commission Bonds consist of $25 million that will go towards repairs on structures like flood-control dams throughout rural Oklahoma.
The Rural Caucus protected agricultural tax exemptions to ensure agricultural productions and contributions will effectively continue throughout our state.
In a tight budget year, the Rural Caucus also succeeded in protecting public schools from forced consolidation and ensured they would receive enough funds to avoid budget cuts this year. Continuing to supply quality education to rural Oklahoma will always remain a priority of the Rural Caucus.
The Senate Republican Rural Caucus was formed under President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee’s leadership in 2005 when the Republicans were in the minority party.
The Republican Rural Caucus is made up of 13 members: Senators Ron Justice of Chickasha, District 23; Patrick Anderson of Enid, District 19; Don Barrington of Lawton, District 31; Jim Halligan of Stillwater, District 21; Harry Coates of Seminole, District 28; John Ford of Bartlesville, District 29; Brian Bingman of Sapulpa, District 12; Mike Johnson of Kingfisher, District 22; Todd Lamb of Edmond, District 47; Bryce Marlatt of Woodward, District 27; David Myers of Ponca City, District 20; Mike Schulz of Altus, District 38; Anthony Sykes of Newcastle, District 24. The purpose of the Republican Rural Caucus is to provide a voice for the citizens of rural, small town Oklahoma and promote their issues at the State Capitol.